Experiential Learning – Highly Abused Word in Training?


All of us as L&D professionals have been exposed to a host of so-called experiential learning programs. Unfortunately, however, most of them are junk – they just add a layer of gamification to a traditional program and claim to be highly engaging.

What would truly break the clutter would be ‘immersive gamification’ which basically is about imparting experiential learning through business simulations. These simulations are compatible with both online and instructor driven formats and have a universal appeal for most age groups and industry types. What truly differentiates such programs?

Firstly, they are close to real life. The storyline of the game is rich with constraints and opportunities which the participant must be facing in real life. He is expected to deal with the same kind of stakeholders and emotions as in real life. This ensures that the participant relates the learning directly to his life and doubts about ‘What is in it for me’ are dispelled right away.

Secondly, these simulations are like a real game. The participant is playing the game in the first person mode; the progress of the game is based on the action taken by the individual, and this affects the outcome dynamically.

Thirdly, these simulations involve real-time decision making. During the simulation, a participant is expected to display his skill or knowledge by taking a decision at various points in time. His expertise is judged by the repercussions of the decision. Making the participant take real life decisions in a safe learning environment immediately drives the learning into the participant’s mind.

Finally, these simulations cause tangible behavioural change. Participants internalize learnings by applying them immediately and  the resulting behavioral changes are effectively retained as they are a part of an experience – not a course!

Every L&D professional must use these four principles to test the efficacy of any experiential program and only then invest the time, energy and effort of the learners in order to derive maximum output from the learning program.


Can Drama and Theatre be Adult Learning Platforms?


Over the past few years, drama and theatre-based corporate training in India has evolved from role plays, ice-breakers and team-building activities into a serious tool. Companies are using it for everything from behavioral change, leadership skills development, change management to handling cultural and personal issues.

“The goal is to lead a participant to a unbiased evaluation of life events and choices that impact their work and professional life,” Watching experiences from outside and discussing them triggers introspection, it is pretty similar to relating to a movie that we love to watch.

Some examples of how organizations are successfully using this tool include are as below :

  • Intel uses it for management training at various levels. Its theatre training vendor uses research to develop customized people management case studies. “The aim of the programme is to depict the importance of certain behaviours and equip the audience with techniques that help understand the most relevant aspects of managing teams,”
  • Target India, on the other hand, uses it for diversity training. Drama-based training “is an effective model to be implemented for topics or themes that may have multiple viewpoints,” Theatre is also becoming increasingly relevant in dealing with personal and psychological issues, which are not very easy to handle directly. “More often than not, people can differentiate between a good and a bad behaviour, and even more so when they are watching from outside in a safe, anonymous environment,


Training with Drama options can include:

  • Team Building with Theatre can be a great way to allow teams to release some tension, change group dynamics and have fun. Using a combination of games and improvisations that can ultimately lead to creating a performance develops great team spirit. It is chance to reveal different dimensions to the team and its members in a safe and enjoyable environment.
  • Storytelling workshops offer techniques to deliver stories and information in a variety of ways that captivate and enthral an audience. It is performance orientated so you get to experience acting techniques and deliver them using your individual skills. It uncovers limiting beliefs, enables group work in a supportive environment and offers exploration of what an audience requires. With the emphasis on telling a story, participants are removed from fear of failure with the focus elsewhere they are released to perform at their best.
  • Conference events can come alive with ideas when using drama – using drama to show rather than tell.
  • Presentations Skills. courses can be organized to use the world of performance and acting to develop Presentation Skills.
  • Working with actors to explore themes such as Customer Service, Dealing with Bullying and many other issues. Called forum theatre, participants instruct the actors how to behave in certain circumstances and then explore the outcomes.


  • Creating interactive role plays for themes such as: Customer Service or Dealing with Difficult People. Participants can explore what happens when things go wrong and how to put them right in a safe environment.


Progressive organisations are passionate about delivering learning and development that harnesses the diversity, energy and creativity of people towards the common purpose. Drama & Theatre based programs achieve this by finding imaginative and creative ways of helping people learn, develop and adopt positive behaviour at work.

Training Gamification – To Play or not to Play?

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” – Plato


Games have been an inseparable part of human life. In early age, we learn mostly by playing. For children, games provide immense opportunities for social, personal, emotional as well as intellectual development. But is that true for adults as well? Do adults also learn by playing games or do they only prefer it as a recreational activity for enjoying leisure time?  The growing popularity of various video games, on line games etc. point towards huge potential of gaming methodology for learning purposes. Not surprisingly, there is growing trend of using games in various forms in teaching and training interventions.

There are numerous benefits of using gamed based method over traditional methods. Game based methodology is fun, highly engaging, motivating and promotes self and peer learning. Even beyond these obvious advantages, the biggest support for this method of instruction can be attributed to the fact that they provide effective response to each level of Kirkpatrick evaluation for training effectiveness.

  • Reaction – The first level of evaluation of training success is participant reaction to the program. Since game based methods offer high engagement and an outcome/ result at the end of the game basis participants’ performance, it ensures positive reaction from the same.


  1. Learning – The second level of evaluation assesses the extent to which participants have advanced their skills, knowledge and/ or attitude. A well designed game will assess skills gains by tracking the failures participants encounter during the game including the types and frequency of failure. For example if a participant fails to get past first stage couple of times but learns the skills and get past second stage in one attempt then skill gain is evident and learning is noted.
  2. Behaviour – The third level of Kirkpatrick model, Behaviour, attempts to measure transfer of learning to workplace which could be a tricky process. Any well designed game has behavioural aspect built into it which ensures high probability of learning application.
  3. Result – The fourth level of evaluation, Result, seeks to link the training with business outcomes. A simulation/ game is programmed to help participants see the impact of their actions on the business result hence enhancing the chances of improving the business outcomes post training.

While there are various advantages of using this approach, there are also caveats which we need to watch out for before developing a game based method:

  • Relevance – Game should be designed keeping the learning objectives in mind so that the purpose of the workshop is fulfilled. It is easy for the participants to get carried away by the ‘fun’ aspect of the game.
  • Too much information – If there is a lot of information download then the game can becomes long and confusing
  • Cost Effectiveness – Many times it becomes difficult for corporate to use it as a blended learning format due to high cost criteria. Choosing the appropriate gaming format which suits the budget is the key.

Games are fun, engaging and multigenerational. Used in an appropriate way, they augment existing learning programs and enhance learner adoption, retention, application and business impact.

Play for Performance – Part 1

Through the “Play for Performance” series we will be bringing to you the various experiential based learning tools which are increasingly being used today by corporates and academics alike to bring their training programs alive. Given that 70% of an individual’s learning happens through experience there is little doubt of the relevance of using game based learning tools in delivering training programs for creating long term and sustainable impact.

In this article we will explore the concept of Outbound trainings and board game based trainings.

  1. Outbound Trainings ( OBT’s)

The concept of using the outdoors as a tool in management training was first developed in the 1940’s by Dr. Kurt Hahn, a philosopher outdoorsman who believed that the outdoors has many lessons  that help people enhance their personal as well as group thresholds

The crux of OBT lies in taking a group of people away from their normal environment and placing them new, unfamiliar challenges before them, in the solving of which a whole new equation is thrown up. The program works on the principle that when a team is thrown together in wilderness or adventure settings where they have to fend for themselves and meet challenges together, there is growth in many directions

Outbound learning works on the following assumptions :

  • People are generally more resourceful and capable than they think they are
  • A small heterogeneous group is capable of successfully coping with significant physical and mental challenges
  • Learning is more successful when problems are presented rather than solutions or frameworks
  • Single most critical factor determining a person’s future is his idea of self
  • Stress and shared adventure are important catalysts in the self discovery process
  • Significant long lasting earning can be achieved through an intensive, short term experience

The areas where outbound trainings are most effective include building successful teams, leadership development, change management, strategy management and planning, effective communication, interpersonal skill and conflict resolution, personal effectiveness

What makes outbounds an effective training tool is the ability to create an environment of open and non-threatening communication, building mutual trust which can be transferred to work place situations and creating awareness of self and others

Moreover the calm and serenity offered by nature, allows one to return to the work place refreshed and energised. Employees appreciate the efforts of the management in providing them a memorable and rewarding experience


2. Board Game Trainings

Board games have been played for thousands of years in all human cultures. They are a source of fun, social interaction, as well as amateur and professional competition. However, the use of board games as a focused and specific tool for developing thinking and other skills is a recent and less known practice.

The skills needed for playing games are not only cognitive. The basic setting of games requires the ability to operate while involved in intense competitive social interaction, with alternating moments of cooperation and confrontation. Obviously, similar skills are needed in the daily functions of people in general and of managers in particular. Improving these skills is a great part of the learning and training managers need to undertake.

Board games are an important tool to provide hands-on and heads-on skill and knowledge development for people of all ages on all subjects. Not only do well-designed games create an engaging atmosphere, they also provide a non-threatening, playful, yet competitive environment in which to focus on content and reinforce and apply learning. Mistakes are useful and point out what we need to learn. The board itself provides a visual metaphor to help connect information. Game elements, discussions, and problem solving with fellow team members about the content are vehicles for learning. Subtle redundancy to reinforce learning and insure retention should be incorporated into the game design. Good questions, problems to solve, and situations to consider allow players to think through and apply what they learn. Effective games serve to organize information in a conceptual framework and to make it concrete. They provide analogies and metaphors to link new information. When played in teams, members learn together; no one ever feels singled out for not knowing an answer.


.Board games are most successful when :

  • They are used to support training content
  • They are played in teams to promote collaboration and diversity.
  • They have an ending or time limit that can be achieved within a short time frame.

. In addition to enhancing critical thinking, team-based board games help to build communication and relationship skills as players work face-to-face to answer questions or solve problems and see that together they often figure out something they thought they didn’t know. The power of collaboration becomes apparent to all and, in organizational settings, can transform working relationships.

Board games provide exceptional, cost-effective resources. They

• incorporate heads- and hands-on learning

• summarize and reinforce important information in an easy-to-grasp format

• reduce the time needed to learn, remember, and apply new information

• promote discussion, collaboration, and build communication

When it comes to board games designed for educating, Play for Performanceis not an empty slogan – it is a fact!


Do only kids learn by playing games?


Catalyst’s approach to adult learning is unique, fun and impactful. Our approach to learning is game based to ensure participants are engaged in the learning process and internalize the learnings. As such, the impact of our programs is more sustained. Most of our training programs follow a structure where participants are divided into various groups of players/ observers and are taken through some meaningful games which relates directly with the learning outcomes of the programme. After they have played the game, they record their observations on response sheets by reflecting on their own. Finally, learnings are shared within the team in the form of structured discussions. The entire approach is supported by videos and other frameworks which would help re-inforce learnings positively. The beauty of the approach is that learnings are not enforced or participants, rather, they get co-created with the participant’s active involvement. Infact, every time the game gets played with a different set of participants, new learnings and insights emerge making the session rich and meaningful even for us as trainers.